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Tally 6202Here we go again.  Just riding in my car, my Boston and me.

Reducing the risk

Back in our vehicle again, now we remember our previous discussion. The joy of taking our Bostons with us, and some of the risks we may not want to think about when we have them in vehicles. We have put together some ideas that might help us not become a distracted driver when our Bostons are with us.


Tally 6202

Not all of us have trained Bostons that love to go for a ride. Just knowing that our Boston Terrier is unhappy can be a driving distraction.  We worry about our pets. A dog that interferes with a driver’s mental ability to drive the car, when the driver’s attention is taken away from the road to deal with the dog’s behavior, has become a safety hazard.


 An unrestrained animal—no matter their size may jump over the seat to get a closer look at the squirrel that just darted across the street or want to demonstrate her disapproval of another dog walking near your vehicle. You may even agree that an excited, barking, jumping dog from window to window is just too much when you are trying to drive.


A dog sitting on the driver’s lap can interfere with steering (Now we know none of our friends let their Bostons do this…).


A dog who gets on or under the accelerator or brake pedals, hits the gearshift, or blocks the driver’s view can cause an accident. (Dogs do this. Yes, fearful and anxious dogs will do this, trying to avoid another dog or human child).


A dog with her head out the window can suffer injury to her eyes from bits of flying debris, or worse, can have her head smashed by objects that pass too close to the car (other vehicles mirrors, signs, branches). (Of course, we do not let our dogs do this!)


Not every dog loves car outings. Some high-risk car behavior is a result of canine stress. Reducing stress will decrease car-ride risks and increase car-ride enjoyment for everyone. Behavioral issues in many cases might be prevented by counter-conditioning and desensitization to overcome your dog’s car-related fear triggers.


Some dogs prefer to lie down on the back seat, the floor of the back seat, or the way back of a vehicle, with little or no guidance. They just seem happy to be with you no matter what else is going on.



Other Bostons pace nervously in the car, and if allowed will attempt to climb into the front seat, and sometimes into your lap. You may need to crate him in the car, even for short trips. We need to mention here that while many dog owners choose crating as a relatively safe car restraint option, this can be an excellent choice, and it does have drawbacks. To be super-safe, the crate needs to be fastened securely in the back of the vehicle. Space is another consideration. Crates require a lot of room.


If you have a small vehicle and there is no room for a crate, you need to explore other options, like canine seat belts. Many dogs ride comfortably and calmly secured in their seats with a belt designed for just that purpose. To avoid the potential for serious injury to a dog’s neck, be sure to select one that attaches to a harness, not your dog’s regular collar.


If you choose the seat belt route, be aware that the air bag danger that precludes small children from riding in the front passenger seat applies to dogs, also.  Either disable your passenger air bag, so Buster can ride in the front, or strap him into his seat belt in the back seat. Do not assume that since air bags provide protection for humans, they would provide the same protection for pets traveling in the car. Air bags deploying at an average speed of 200 mph, would be a bone-breaking force for an animal.


Puppies, young dogs, and others who might be tempted to try their teeth out on the seat belt or harness straps may not be safe because, reprimanding your dog for chewing his belt comes under the “driver distraction” risk category. Hint: If your dog wants to chew everything he can get his mouth on, you might consider applying a sour-tasting product such as Bitter Apple to the straps. This works for some dogs – but not for all.


We also are concerned about the use of the booster seats that let your Boston see out the window, but you do not strap him in. What is to stop a dog from flying out of its seat and bouncing around the passenger compartment if you have to stop suddenly?


Whatever your choice of safety gear: calm behavior should be required for canine passengers. If you choose to ride with your dog unrestrained in your car, the least you must do is teach him to be calm and lie down in a safe spot other than your lap.


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-Pat Miller, CPDT, is Whole Dog Journal's Training Editor. Miller lives in Hagerstown, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. For book purchasing or contact information,

-Auto Safety: Safe Restraints for Dogs Riding in Cars

-Brooke Arnold 12/23/2011 Travel Tips

-Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA The Dog Trainer May 10, 2010 Episode #061

-Car Rides By Kathy Diamond Davis, Author and Trainer